Saturday, August 18, 2007


1. "You should have gone with us, Aiko. It was great. It parodied Ora Pro Nobis, Bona, Bayan Ko. All the Brocka classics. There was even a Bembol Roco cameo."
Aiko forked the last piece of tuna. "What is it called?"
"Sa mga Buko ng Liwanag. Isn't that great? And they'll never screen it at malls. We'll buy a VCD or something." Marion tapped her lips. "May I have that?"
"And Carlitos, he was there? With you guys, I mean."
Marion smiled. "Yes. Yes he was."
Aiko brought the fork to her mouth. "I'm sure it was great." The tuna was hard to swallow. "Buy me a VCD. Or something."
Marion kept on smiling. "Yeah. Yeah. Hey listen, I'm just going to take a bath. I snuck in... I think three cans of beer. Maybe we can--"
"Maybe later." Aiko got off her bed. "I'm meeting Jessie Mae in a few minutes."
"In your pajamas?"
Aiko got her jacket from her closet. "And jacket." She kissed Marion on the cheek. "Later."
"Your cellphone."
Aiko was halfway out the door. "I don't need it." She didn't wait for Marion's response. She rushed through the corridor and went straight to Jessie Mae's room, two floors up.
Sampaguita Dorm was all green and red. Aiko hated Christmas. On her way up she beheaded two styrofoam elves. She carried the heads with her. They were eyeless by the time she knocked on Jessie Mae's door.
"Merry Christmas!" It was Lynda, one of Jessie Mae's roommates. "Oh. It's you." Lynda's smile grew bigger. "Hey JM, visitor! Come on in." Aiko didn't enter. Lynda shrugged and disappeared. Jessie Mae replaced her a few seconds after. Aiko handed her the elves's heads.
"Jesus, Ai."
"Get dressed Mae, or I will take Santa's head."
Jessie Mae stepped outside and closed the door behind her. "You’re in pajamas, I'm in pajamas. Let's go."
"Bring a jacket."
"The sando's fine."
"Wear a bra."
Jessie Mae wagged a finger in front of Aiko's face. "Did you come here to spread morals, or to tell me your sob story?"
"Sob story. Let's go." Hand in hand they headed for the dormitory's exit. No words were necessary, the Sunken Garden was their destination. Their official sob story site. "Christmas is bad enough during December. But on August? Who do I kill Mae, who?"
"It's not too bad. It makes people, Lynda in particular, happy. Besides, nothing ever happens on August."
"There's the Linggo ng Wika!"
"It's Buwan ng Wika, Ai. But then you're an English major. Marion should have taught you something by now, though." Jessie Mae pointed at the cloudless sky. "Hey, aren't you supposed to turn into a wolf?"
The Sunken Garden's wet grass caressed Aiko's feet. "Later." They sat at their favorite spot, the roots of the acasia right in front of the College of Education. Around them, joggers, horny high school students, and mango vendors peopled the academic oval. "After the story." She handed Jessie Mae a pack of cigarettes.
Jessie Mae brought out her lighter. "Well, fire away."
"She went out with him. Again!"
"She said they were with a group, but it's so obvious they were with each other."
"This has got to stop."
Jessie Mae made smoke rings. "Which, your whining or their dating? Or your stupid I-speak-through-actions-not-words policy?"
"All of them?"
Jessie Mae coughed. "And you guys'll live happily ever after."
"You know where they went? To that stupid independent film festival. Posers, posers!"
"Hey, I went to that stupid independent film festival."
"Uhuh. Earlier today. I sent you a text message. You didn't reply. You should have come though.  There was this Lino Bro--"
"Jesus, Mae."
Jessie Mae inhaled. Exhaled. "It's cold."
"I told you to bring a jacket."
"My ass is wet. I think it just rained."
"Jesus, Mae."
"Jesus, Ai."
Aiko took her jacket off. "I think I love her."

2. "There were rats."
Aiko turned her reading lamp on. "Rats?"
"Rats." Marion was on her bed. "I set the fly traps, like you taught me. Except I didn't have food... for bait. So the rats... they haven't been caught."
"I think I have--"
"Ever since Vicky killed herself the rats have become braver."
Aiko took her slippers off and climbed onto her bed. "You fixed things up?"
"The fork and the tupperware? Yeah, yeah. But I couldn't find the spoon."
"There was no spoon." Aiko turned her reading lamp off. "Well, good night."
"Good night." Marion got up and turned the room's light on. "Are you mad me?"
Aiko covered her face with a pillow. "No. No."
"You know you didn't brush your teeth..."
"So what?" Aiko took the pillow off her face and sat up. "So what? Oh, wait, I know. Carlitos always brushes his teeth."
"As a matter of fact, he does. After every meal. It's because of the braces."
Marion was standing a meter away from Aiko. From that distance she could knock her off her feet with a well-thrown pillow. "I don't care Marion. I really don't."
"Is this what it's about? Me watching a movie with him? You said it was okay..."
"I lied. I... I... It's not about that at all. That's not what I meant, at all."
Marion smiled. She turned the room's lights off. "Okay then. I'm glad we settled that." She climbed onto the bed, embracing Aiko. "I thought, you know, for a while there, I thought you were being all possessive again, and not trusting me. You know I know he's a pervert. You should know I'm capable of defending myself. He stays in his place. I just like having someone to talk film with. Just keep on trusting me, all right?" The embrace became tighter. "Weren't you supposed to turn into a wolf?"
"I did. Earlier. I ate a rapist. And chewed the leg off another."
"Good, good," Marion said. She kissed Aiko on the cheek. "Good night."
Aiko caressed Marion's arm. "Good night."

3. Morning found her alone on the bed. Aiko searched for her cellphone under the pillows. Three messages. One from Marion (meeting groupmates), one from Jessie Mae (meeting groupmates) and one from her newest stalker (Globe this time, the first four were all Smart). Aiko got up, tossed her cellphone onto her bed, stretched a bit, fell to the floor and started with her daily exercise. Twenty push ups, twenty sit ups, twenty jumping jacks and five minutes jogging in place. It was an incorrect regimen, according to Jessie Mae, but Aiko didn't care. She didn't do it for good health. She just wanted her heart pumping hard as soon as she woke up.
It was a Wednesday, which meant no classes and a whole day at the library. Aiko loved being an English major. She grabbed her towel and went to the dorm's showers. An hour later she was searching the Arts and Letters shelves for anything about Monique Wittig. The dust continually assaulted her nose and her stomach grumbled. "Rapists," she said to herself, "absolutely no nourishment."
"Aiko? Aiko?"
Aiko turned to her left and came face to face with Carlitos.
He had an iPod plugged to his right ear. "Aiko! It is you! It is you!"
"No." Aiko turned to the books again. "No it isn't."
"Hey, hey," his face was two inches away from hers now, "listen to this, listen to this! It's a classic!" He plugged an earphone into her ear.
Music invaded Aiko's brain: "So I have to say 'I love you' in a s--"
She ripped the earphone off her ear and ripped the iPod off Carlitos. She slammed it onto the floor.
Aiko kept her eyes on the books. "You come near me again," she said, "and I will rip your heart out."
Carlitos bent to pick the iPod up.
"Go away," Aiko said, "now."
Carlitos went away.
Aiko took her cellphone out and sent a message to Jessie Mae. The reply came after two minutes. Aiko sent Jessie Mae a smiley face and resumed her search. She scoured the library for two hours and found two books about Wittig. She had both photocopied and walked to the College of Science building to fetch Jessie Mae. Over lunch she told her about her encounter with Carlitos.
Jessie Mae sipped her mango juice. "Are you going to tell her?"
"I don't know." Aiko poked her broccoli. "She'll think I'm forbidding her to hang out with him, I'm sure."
"You are?"
"No! But what do you want me to do? Risk it?"
"He's bad news."
"She can handle herself." Aiko forked the broccoli and put it in her mouth. It was hard to swallow.
Jessie Mae burped, dried her lips with a napkin and said, "Are you coming tonight?"
"It's been forty days?"
"How's Lynda holding up?"
"The Christmas spirit helps." Jessie Mae dried her eyes with the napkin. "Jesus, but I miss Vicky."
"We all do." Aiko forked another broccoli. "We all do."

4. Around twenty women, mostly Sampaguita dormers, attended the party. All wore black, except Aiko (who wore white) and Jessie Mae (who wore purple). Each brought a candle, a blanket, and junkfood. Jessie Mae brought a stereo. The party was held at the Lagoon, at around six in the evening. Aiko sat beside Lynda, the party's DJ. Marion was nowhere to be found.
"Me and Vicky," Lynda, caressing the stereo, said, "we used to come here all the time."
Aiko nodded. "Us, too."
"Me and you? I never came here with you."
"Me and Vicky, I mean. Long ago. Before Vicky and you." Aiko chewed her cigarette's butt, but didn't light it.
"Oh. I see." Lynda lowered the stereo's volume. "I see. She always spoke... well of you."
Aiko lit her cigarette.
"Why don't you tell her?"
"Tell her what?"
"That you love her."
"I did. She loved you. What was I supposed to do?"
Lynda turned the stereo off. "Marion loves me?"
"What?" Aiko killed her cigarette with the sole of her shoe. "Marion? Vicky!"
"Vicky? No, Marion. Why don't you tell Marion you love her?"
"Why would I tell Marion I love her?"
"I never got to tell Vicky, you know. Most nights I wonder, what if I did? Would she still be here with us?"
Aiko took the stereo and turned it on, maximum volume. After a minute, she turned it off. She brought out another cigarette and lit it. "You know why?"
"Why I never got to tell Vicky?"
"Why I don't tell Marion."
Aiko put a hand on Lynda's shoulder. "When she told me she was leaving me for you, which, incidentally, she did here, right here, just over that bench, I cursed her. I said, 'If you ever tell someone, anyone, that you love her, you'll lose her.' And she said, 'Right back at you.' We made up a few days later, but we never took our curses back. So there."
"You really said that?"
"And she really said that?"
Lynda took Aiko's cigarette. "Aren't you supposed to turn into a wolf?"
"That was last night."
Lynda nodded. "It was that, wasn't it?"
"The wolf?"
"It's not that she loved me. She just couldn't take it that you loved the wolf more."
"No. No. Don't ever think that. I know, for a fact, that she loved you."
Lynda took a puff. "She did, you know. She did tell me she loved me."
"I know." Aiko nodded. "And she lost you."
Aiko's eyes followed Lynda's finger. And there was Marion, also in white. And Carlitos, in blue. Marion stopped by Jessie Mae's blanket, Carlitos hovering behind her. "Excuse me," Aiko said. She stood up and walked away from the party. She headed for the Lagoon's less bright areas, where men and women from outside the University fornicated. She brought out another cigarette and sat on an acasia's wet roots. She heard footsteps and voices coming near here. She lit the cigarette.
And there was Marion. And Carlitos. And the wolf took over. Marion said, "You don't have to do this." Aiko growled. Carlitos tried to run. Aiko lunged at him.
After a few minutes, Marion and Aiko, hand in hand, returned to the party. Lynda was dancing naked. Jessie Mae was doing backflips. The rest of the women were seated their blankets, waving their candles. Aiko estimated five more minutes before campus security attacked them. Marion let go of her hand. Aiko returned to the blanket were she and Lynda sat. She sat down and took out another cigarette.
Marion stood in front of her. "That causes indigestion, you know. Smoking. After eating."
Aiko lit the cigarette. "I won't smoke it. I just like it in my fingers. You get that don't you?"
"No." Marion nodded. "Not at all. I don't get you at all."
Aiko took a puff. "Is this goodbye?"
"It's like that scene in ET, when the kid keeps on saying 'Stay,' you know, three, five times. And the alien goes, 'Come' and the kid shuts up. How could he expect ET to stay if he couldn't come?" Marion undid her belt. "Yeah. Yeah, this is goodbye." She took off her clothes and began dancing with Lynda.
Aiko just watched them, holding her cigarette. After ten minutes and no sign of campus security, she stood up, took her clothes off and joined in.

Philippines Free Press
August 18, 2007